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Last updated: Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 - 07:45 pm EDT

Wedge's annual return a tribute to Fort Wayne roots

Newest ESPN analyst will be back in town next weekend

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Party in the Park IV

When: 6-9 p.m. Feb. 7 at Parkview Field

Tickets: $75 (non-Sports Corp. member), $65 (Sports Corp. member)

Ticket deadline: Monday

More information: fortwaynesportscorp.com

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No matter where Eric Wedge travels, from Boston to Cleveland to Seattle and back again, he always finds time for Fort Wayne.

Loyalty might be a dying trait in professional sports, but not for Wedge, who never loses his soft spot for his old hometown. Wedge will be back again next weekend for the Sports Corporation's Party in the Park fundraiser at Parkview Field as well as his annual baseball camp at the World Baseball Academy.

“Fort Wayne is in my blood,” Wedge said. “It's where I was born and raised and it's a huge part of who I am as a human being. I just believe in that city and what that city stands for. It's one of the greatest places in the country to raise a family and be part of a community. That town always stays true to itself.”

Wedge, 45, will embark on a new aspect of his career this summer as part of ESPN's baseball coverage crew. He expects to assist in a number of ways with their coverage, including their “Baseball Tonight” show.

That doesn't mean he's given up on managing after seven years with the Cleveland Indians and three years with the Seattle Mariners.

In fact, he had several conversations with the Chicago Cubs about their job before they decided on hiring Rick Renteria.

“I interviewed with the Cubs two or three different times and it was a good process; I enjoyed talking with Theo (Epstein, Cubs president) and Jed (Hoyer, general manager) and everyone. That was enjoyable,” Wedge said. “It didn't work out and they were upfront, but it was very good to talk to them and I enjoyed that process.”

Wedge could have stayed another season with the Mariners, but had a difference of opinion with the front office on the direction of the team and felt it was not a good situation to remain in. Wedge spent three seasons managing the Mariners, interrupted briefly when he suffered a stroke last season and was forced to miss time. He's back to full health again now.

“It was a difficult year, to say the least,” Wedge said.

Wedge said he felt he had to stand up for his core principles and he couldn't do that if he had remained with the Mariners in their current situation.

“I wanted it to work; I bought a house here, my kids are in school year, I liked it off the field,” Wedge said. “There were just too many negatives going on in and outside of baseball that I just couldn't be a part of anymore.”

The upcoming move to the media side has been refreshing, he said, and he said he always gets a lift from his annual return to Fort Wayne to see family and friends.

The Party in the Park is Friday, Feb. 7, and his annual baseball camp is Feb. 8.

“Whatever we do in Fort Wayne stays in northeast Indiana with multiple charities, and that's what we love about it,” he said. “I'm excited to come back. It's a whirlwind weekend, but having it the week after the Super Bowl should make it nice for everyone. And it's a week closer to spring training.”

rhayes@news-sentinel.com


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